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of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: Verdant Tea

Caffeine and Crassicolumna

In late 2018, various media outlets were all a-buzz about a new (old) discovery.

An as-of-yet uncategorized decaffeinated tea plant in Fujian province, China. Some of the articles exaggerated the claim; others got some of the science wrong completely. Put succinctly: a long-forgotten cultivar had mutated. How does that happen?

Well, as most tea botany nerds know, cultivars are only classified as such if the genetic info is uniform. Meaning: cultivated varieties of certain tea plants could only be called as such if they’re grown from clones or grafts from other members of that cultivar. If grown from seed, the genetic profile of that tea tree changes.

Well, the decaf tree—dubbed Hong Ya Cha—was one such genetic variant. And I couldn’t stop talking about it. Why? Well, my relationship with caffeine was in flux, and I looked for any tea-adjacent alternatives I could find.

In a real-life conversation with other tea blog friends, I brought the subject up. (Mainly curious if anyone sold any teas made from Hong Ya Cha.) One of them mentioned Verdant Tea as a possible source. I went to digging.

Turns out what they had was a completely different thing, entirely. Oh, they possessed “teas” that were made from a supposedly decaffeinated plant. But it wasn’t from a mutated Camellia sinensis tree. No, theirs was from a cousinly species from Yunnan province, China. Camellia crassicolumna.

Golden Fleece Feast Fest, A Taste of Eugene, and Tea from Neighbors

I might sound like a broken record here, but the last couple of weeks or so have been insane. Moments of import at casa de chaos are innumerable and frustrating…and totally not worth reflecting upon. Instead, I want to pay homage to the good things – the tea trifecta, if you will – that have happened in recent weeks. Starting with…

Ducktales FTW!

Golden Fleece Feast Fest

Nearly a month ago, I lamented via the social mediasphere – like I always do – about everyone’s acquisition of Verdant Tea’s Golden Fleece. I remember everyone extolling its virtues from on high. Envy set in like a car crash. I love Yunnan blacks; I love Yunnan golds more. Unfortunately, it was never in my budget to acquire some – either back then or now.

Ever the tealanthropist, Rachel Carter of IHeartTeas offered to send me a sample of this year’s batch. A couple of others were also including in the gifting. Not sure if I was the first to suggest it, or if someone else whispered in my ear, but the idea to do a “tandem blog” gained favor. I.e. Everyone trying the tea at the same time – discussing it over a chat medium first – then simultaneously posting blogs about their experiences.

Naturally, I agreed to it (or patted myself on the back for the idea, whichever), forgetting one simple thing. I suck at keeping to a deadline, unless I’m being paid for it. Tandem blogging was probably the most antithetical idea I could’ve agreed to or suggested. It didn’t help that I was in the midst of some home-related SNAFUs at the time.

Google+’s Hangout feature was our chosen get-together medium. Participants included: The aforementioned Fleece-gifter, Rachel, Nicole Martin of Tea For Me Please, Jo Johnson of A Gift of Tea, Jackie D (aka. Mrs. Tea Trade), and Darlene Meyers-Perry of The Tea Lover’s Archive. I was the only guy there…and it showed. A joke by me involving the “b-word” in reference to my cat was met with shocked gasps. Sometimes, I should adjust my social filter to “Female”.

That said, it was an extremely animated evening gathering. I was duly caffeinated by the end of it, and equally energized by all the tea talk. As you can tell by the glibness of this post so far, I don’t get to do that very often. Tea gatherings, for me, are like a nerd-geyser going off.

Oh yeah! The tea itself…

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The leaves looked like a Yunnan Jin Cha (or “Gold Bud”) through and through. What was different about these buds, though, were the furs. Yes, these leaf buds still had downy furs present – like a good Yinzhen does. I’ve had many a Yunnan gold, but this was the gold..-iest. (I know, not a word.) Taste-wise, it was smooth, silky, honey-like, and a tad malty on the finish. It lacked some of the peppery lean others of its ilk possess, but that was hardly missed. It was, in a word, perfect. As was the gathering.

Thanks again, Rachel, for the sample and conversation. I’ll do better on the tandeming next time. Er, maybe.

To read Nicole’s take, go HERE.

To read Jo’s take, go HERE.

To read Rachel’s take, go HERE.

To purchase Verdant Tea’s Golden Fleece, go HERE.

A Taste of Eugene

Remember a year or so ago how I wrote about trying a gin barrel-aged oolong beer? You don’t? Well, go HERE, then get back to me. Done? Good. Well, what if I told you that beer had a f**king sequel?!

I found out (again) from Josh Chamberlain of J-TEA that Oakshire Brewing came out with yet another rendition of the Frederic’s Lost Arm. This new one was from the same batch, but instead of a gin barrel, the Oakshire boys aged it for two years in a Pinot Noir barrel – thus dubbing it Frederic C. Noir. Unfortunately, none of the rare bottles were going to make it to Portland.

After a week of himming-and-hawing, I asked the kind folks at 16 Tons if they still had any left available. They said, “Yes.” A split second later I said, “Hold one for me, I’m coming down.” Keep in mind, this shop was in Eugene…which is a two-hour drive from Portland. I decided to devote one of my day’s off to the road trip.

I haven’t tried the beer yet, so that’ll be a subject for another post. What I will share here is my major (and enlightening pit stop) before picking it up. I decided to pre-funk at the very tea shop that provided the oolong for said beer in the first place. I had heard great things about J-TEA, and I’d associated with the owner via Twitter on a few occasions. My first aged oolong ever was acquired there – an aged Dong Fei Mei Ren (Oriental Beauty/Bai Hao) oolong. Loved that stuff.

Never heard of the place? Well, it’s the shop in Oregon for the aged oolong crowd. Josh’s selection is probably the most extensive I’ve come across. My main reason for going – other than picking at Josh’s brain – was to sample some 20-year-aged Baozhongs.

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Josh was kind of to preside over a taste comparison between a 1984 and 1989 Baozhong offering. Both were exquisitely herbaceous and strangely calming. I’m sure that “calm wakefulness” crap that tea folks talk about stems from trying aged oolongs. I didn’t feel too wired, just…aware. Of the two, the ’84 was a clear favorite; there was something deeper at play in that cup. Not sure how to properly explain it, something just clicked with me.

The second treat he dished out was one I had inquired about several months prior. For a Black Friday event, Josh had processed some leaves he picked from Minto Island Growers into a black tea. For those not familiar with MIG, they’re an outfit with a section of garden devoted to tea varietals in Oregon. Yes, you heard right. Tea plants in Oregon! And lucky for me, there was still some of J-TEA’s black experiment left.

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What can I say, it was darn near perfect, and note-for-note like a Taiwanese Ruby 18. The cuppa was chewy and chocolaty with an odd floral sensation in the top note. I instantly wanted more. Since there wasn’t a lot to go around, J let me keep the leaves to re-steep. Which I did. Four times. Those suckers were resilient.

I made a purchase of some ’09 Li Shan black, and settled my bill for the tea tasters o’ awesomeness. Before I left for the beer leg of my journey, we went on a dialogue tangent about barrel-aged teas. Right as I was about to leave, Josh mentioned in passing, “I acquired a bourbon barrel from Kentucky.”

Damn it. The man knows my weakness.

To check out J-TEA’s selection of aged oolongs, go HERE.

For their selection of black teas, go HERE.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The first weekend of every month starts with an event in our neighborhood simply known as “Beer Night”. I know, clever. Each month has a theme. Some notable ones from the past months were “Weird Beers”, “Foreign Beers”, “Wheat Beers”, and so on. This month, it was “Beer Cocktails”…and I had no idea what I was going to contribute. Initially, I was going to offer up my tea-beer experiment, but the weather was too hot to justify it. As a result, I decided to skip out on it.

Both my neighbor Tim and my brother talked me out of it, and – truthfully – it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting. It’s beer. Good beer. And good people. I would eventually give in.

Neighbor Tim and his wife, Katie, had just returned from Ethiopia to meet twins they were adopting. Before they left, I texted Tim as an afterthought, “If you can, pick up some Ethiopian-grown tea!” I knew the stuff existed after a conversation with Cinnabar Gong Fu of Phoenix Tea from a couple of years back. While not officially on the “Tea WANT!” list, it was a contender.

Well, when I got to the barbeque with my brother, Tim’s wife came up to me and said they had picked up nearly a kilo of Ethiopian tea. I was shocked by the amount she signified…until she told me how cheap it was. At the end of the gathering, Tim gifted me with 100 grams of it.

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And I tried it the next morning.

It’s not a complex tea by any stretch. If anything, because of the thin (practically fannings) cut of the leaves, the liquor had a lot in common with cheap Rize-grown Turkish black tea or like products from Guatemala or Bolivia. However, it wasn’t as astringent as the South American stuff, or as sweet as the Turkish, but very reminiscent of Australian Daintree.

The best part? It iced well. My god, did it ice well.

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What? I’m an American. We do that here.

In closing, I suppose I can sum up that the best and simplest things in life fall back to good tea and good people. Well, for those of us that like tea. And people. Jury’s still out on the “people” part, but so far, I’ve had pretty good luck.

leprechaun tea

2012 Wrap-Up – It’s All in the Tea Delivery

happy new year 2012 from father time and the new year's baby from histeria

2012 can suck it.

Okay, perhaps I should elaborate. Since about – oh – 2008, I can’t say I’ve had a particularly “good” year, by any stretch. They’ve usually been a mish-mash of good and bad. The finest example of this was 2010, which was just…bipolar. 2012, however, was just all-around shite right out of the starting gate. So bad, in fact, that I took an (unintentional) hiatus from anything to do with writing for the better part of December. I had nothing positive to impart, and – frankly – didn’t feel like rehashing my dark mood.

As a result, for this entry, I’m going to focus on the (few but far between) positive moments of the last year. Over the summer – like I’ve said in prior entries – I decided to “retire” from tea reviewing. My heart (and time) weren’t into it anymore. I was also under the delusion of focusing on other projects. That didn’t quite pan out, but – honestly – was anyone really surprised?

One of the things I was looking forward to was finally whittling down my vast tea stores. Without an influx of new teas coming in, perhaps I could finally notch them off – one cup at a time. That didn’t quite pan out, either. Reason being? The kindness of strangers. I may have given up on tea reviewing…but it didn’t give up on me.

I would like to highlight and wax awesomely about some of these kind folks:

The Photo-Biker Tea Shaman

If – by the grace of Brahma – I ever make it to Darjeeling in my lifetime, the first person I’m looking up is Benoy Thapa of Thunderbolt Tea. Back in ’08, when I first started writing about tea, I received a random Facebook friend request from him. It took me to several months to do “the maths” to figure out that he was the headliner of Thunderbolt. The following year, he sent along a care-package of teas to review and a few other goodies.

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He is solely responsible for my complete 180° opinion change about Darjeeling teas. In 2012, he came through again with some exquisite teas from Turzum, Risheehat, and Castleton. I wrote about each and every one of them, and I still pull the packs out for reflection. Benoy is probably the nicest tea-guy I’ve ever met, and I hope one day to shake his hand. And buy all of his tea. All of it.

Tea MC Tiff

There was a time in the middle of the year when I made regular tea pit stops to my favorite brick-‘n-mortar stores. On Saturdays, I usually made runs to The Jasmine Pearl. On Mondays, I could be found at Smith Teamaker. For the latter, I usually went in the morning before the rush started.

Tiffany was often the host on duty, and gracefully put up with my esoteric tea-fueled diatribes for the two hours I was there. She also made a mean bowl of matcha. Aside from the bowl, I usually left the place about two pots in.

On one such outing, she informed me that she and her son were planning a trip to Japan. She asked if I knew of any tea gardens that were near Kyoto. I racked my brain for a bit while sipping, then it hit me. Obubu! (I love that name.)

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I gave her the info on how to contact the garden for a tour. The following week, she told me that her contact form hadn’t been approved yet, nor had she received a reply about it. I took to Twitter to contact their main sales-guy directly. He replied mere seconds later and sped up the process.

Tea MC Tiff ended up visiting the plantation and had a wonderful time. That and she brought back some teas (plural) from her trip. Chief among them, some Hawaiian green and sakura blossoms – the latter of which had been on my Tea WANT! list forever. It took me forever to try it, but I’m thankful for the opportunity.

It really is who ya know.

The Purrfect Cup

Courtney Powers (great spy name, by the way) is my girl-bro. I say that because I can’t think of any other gal that has had my back in 2012 like this sister-blogger. She encouraged me if/when I was ever down, she was the perfect NaNoWriMo cheerleader (which I never completed), and the best part…

She sent me some damn good tea.

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Thanks to her, I was finally able to try some of the wares from Verdant Tea, a company that I’d been eyeing for several months. Their Zhu Rong and Laoshan series were topnotch. And I wouldn’t have been able to say that if it weren’t for her “purrfect powers”.

The SororiTea Sister

The funny thing about this fellow tea reviewer – alias, LiberTeas – is that she’s practically a neighbor. I’ve never met her – probably never will – but some of the best teas I tried this year stemmed from her. Steepster’s to blame. I saw an update on that tea social media site regarding a Darjeeling white I’d never tried from my favorite estate – Giddapahar.

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I left only one comment on the actual SororiTea Sisters review. I think it said, “WANT!”

A couple of months later, I received a package from her with that Darjeeling white, and a few others she thought I’d enjoy. Prior to that, we had made a few tea swaps, and almost always, they had been unsolicited. She’s just that nice. I still have quite a few of those samples to pound through, too.

The Powers That Be

Along with insanely good blogging tools and advice, the Davenport duo that run this here site have also shown great tea patronage. This year, Jackie imparted some offerings from the Doke estate – the one managed by the Lochan family. One was an oolong; one was a white. Both were exquisite.

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I had plans to include them in an epic story, but that never came to pass – alas. But I’m still grateful to have had the opportunity to sip them. Copiously.

Big Brass Butiki-s

As I’ve mentioned before, Stacy Lim – the purveyor of Butiki Teas – is on my palate wavelength. She has a flare for the unusual, a leaning I can relate to and respect. She sent me an e-mail some months ago wondering if I’d ever heard of Japanese pu-erh. I rattled off some things I had tried, yet she said those weren’t what she was thinking of.

organic japanese puerh

Before I could apologize for not being more useful…she offered some up for sampling. A month or two later – barring hurricane delays – I received an ample package containing a sample of the aforementioned pu-erh and a few others. Of the nine, I’ve unfortunately only made it to two. With tea patronage like this, delays are inevitable. I couldn’t thank her enough.

“The Hero of Canton”

Back in the spring, I was “commissioned” by Canton Tea Co. for a guest blog on a couple of new Dan Congs they were putting on the market. Unfortunately, being well…uh…me, I didn’t finish the guest blog until that summer. I received an e-mail back from their sales lead stating that they had other plans for the blog. They were about ready to launch a new weekly tea club, and they wanted me to be a VIP.

What this meant exactly, I had no clue. I thought it consisted of a couple of samples as payment for the guest blog, and that was it. Boy, was I wrong.

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It’s been twelve (or so?) weeks since the official Canton Tea Club launch, and I’m still a member. I get new and unique teas once per week. They have yet to call upon me to do another write-up, but the teas keep a-comin’. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a clerical error, or if they’re seriously just that cool. For now, I’ll go with the latter and not question it.

I “heart” them dearly. And, seriously, their tea club is a game changer. You – fair reader(s?) – should check it out.

The Great Wizard Zendalf

Also in the spring, I received a DM over Twitter from Zen Tara requesting to send me some Darjeeling to review. This was prior to my “retirement”, so I naturally said, “Hell yeah!”

Time went by, though, and I never saw a package. I didn’t press them on it because – well – that’d be douche-y. What would I have said, “Hey, where’s mah free tea?!”

Uh…no.

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I let it slide, and forgot about it over the passage of time. Literally a week before Christmas, I received a rather large box in the mail. Five teas were contained in said box with a letter from “The Great Wizard Zendalf”. It told an epic story of how this delivery came to be, and instantly earned my approval of awesomeness. Among the teas in the package was a note-perfect golden-tipped Assam from the Khongea estate that I’ll be reflecting on at a later juncture. Still, what a way to make an entrance, Zen Tara. You know me too well.

Clouds and Mist

This wouldn’t be a true gratitude blog if I didn’t mention tea authoress, Jo Johnson. On top of being one of my biggest cheerleaders from the get-go, she also mentioned that I’m in the forward of her upcoming book. That alone caused more warm-fuzzies than any other moment this year.

A couple of weeks back I received a Christmas card and a sample packet of tea. It was a Cloud & Mist green, a type I’m not usually a fan of. However, I brewed it up anyway.

Not sure if it was the tea, my gratitude, or a bunch of other factors…but it was the best green I’d tried.

And I think that pretty much sums the good things from this year.

2012 can suck it

But I will still sip it.

Leaves of tea

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